Jackson Browne is the quintessential 1970s singer-songwriter, a sensitive individual who analysed his difficult relationships into songs. He was extremely well connected into the 1970s soft-rock scene – he dated Laura Nyro and Joni Mitchell, wrote the Eagles‘ first hit single, and produced Warren Zevon’s breakthrough album.
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Primarily, Browne’s a lyricist, one of the best text writers in pop music, whether he’s tackling international politics:
On the radio talk shows and TVYou hear one thing again and againHow the USA stands for freedomAnd we come to the aid of a friendfrom ‘Lives In The Balance’
Or analysing relationships:
You keep it upYou try so hardTo keep a life from coming apartAnd never knowThe shallows and the unseen reefsThat are there from the startIn the shape of a heartfrom ‘In The Shape Of A Heart’
Jackson Browne’s most artistically successful decade was the 1970s, during which he made five studio albums. Browne’s right-hand man in the 1970s was guitarist, fiddler, and falsetto vocalist David Lindley, who enlivened Browne’s albums with his instrumental work. Browne’s voice is boyish, and not always engaging, and Lindley helped to make his records more accessible.
Here is my ranking of Browne’s 1970s albums:
#5 – Jackson Browne (Saturate Before Using)
1974Jackson Browne attained maximum Jackson Browne-ness with his third album, featuring gorgeous meditations on death and the apocalypse, accompanied by David Lindley’s guitar and fiddle. To save his label money after the expensive For Everyman, Browne used his live band, and they sound great. Apart from the mundane rocker ‘Walking Slow’, every track is strong, and mournful expositions like ‘For A Dancer’ and ‘Fountain of Sorrow’ are prime Browne. But my favourite song is the title track, especially the moment when Browne’s voice cracks on the final note.
Favourite Song: ‘Late For The Sky’
How long have I been sleeping?How long have I been drifting alone through the night?How long have I been running for that morning flight?Through the whispered promises and the changing lightOf the bed where we both lieLate for the sky
Although the 1970s were his heyday, Jackson Browne released some strong songs after his first decade – tracks like 1982’s poppy ‘Somebody’s Baby’ and 1993’s gorgeous ‘Sky Blue and Black’ are among his finest, and I recommend 2004’s double-disc The Very Best of Jackson Browne as a fine career overview.